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Intelligence students get smart on AF Special Ops

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Knowing your enemy is age-old advice. But in today's battle space, maintaining information superiority is critical to mission success. Determining threats in an often blurred, undefined battle space is the one mission every special operations intelligence trainee seeks to accomplish.

The Air Force Special Operations Command Intelligence Formal Training Unit is a course conducted at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The training unit at Hurlburt Field is identified as Operating Location-B, and is subordinate to the 325th Fighter Wing here.

"The purpose of the AFSOC IFTU is to bridge the gap between the intelligence skills taught at basic intelligence school, and those skills needed to successfully support the special operations war fighter," said Maj. Kenneth Cushing, commander of Operating Location-B. "The intelligence training mission is to provide initial qualification training to both officer and enlisted intelligence personnel, which will prepare them to provide immediate support to an operational special operations unit."

Graduates are nearly mission-ready when they complete the course, saving significant mission qualification time upon arrival at their gaining units, he said.

"The AFSOC IFTU training satisfies all of the special operations intelligence mission-essential tasks," said Master Sgt. Jason Olszewski, Operating Location-B superintendent. "The training syllabus covers topics like intelligence requirements determination, research and review of intelligence data, data analysis and dissemination, intelligence debriefing and reporting, evasion and recovery planning and information operations."

The four-week course is anything but a vacation on the sunny beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. Students complete more than 166 hours of academics, testing, practical exercises and presentations. They also receive familiarization tours of various special operations aircraft such as the AC-130 Gunship, MC-130 Talon, EC-130 Commando Solo and the MH-53 Pave Low helicopter.

Some graduates will arrive to their operational units and receive additional mission-specific training, but most deploy almost immediately to support special operations teams on the front line engaged in the Global War on Terror.

Eight classes graduate annually, and each class consists of twelve students. The demographics of each class are diverse, with students ranging in rank and experience level.

"Officers between the rank of second lieutenant and major make up approximately 60-70 percent of the annual class demographics," said Major Cushing. "The enlisted ranks attending the class are normally between airman first class and senior master sergeant."

While the course is specifically designed to train intelligence specialists to support special operations aircrews and Special Tactics units, other commands such as Air Combat Command, Pacific Air Forces and United States Air Forces Europe, all request slots in the course to train their rescue personnel.

John Smith, a retired Air Force pararescue specialist, teaches the Combat Search and Rescue portion of the course. He also conducts Code of Conduct Level-B training.
"I live vicariously through each and every student that comes through the class," said Mr. Smith, who continues to support the special operations mission as an instructor.

Colonel Roy Horton, AFSOC director of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, supports the course through funding and personal involvement. Because he understands the importance of world-class training, Colonel Horton directs five highly-qualified instructors to conduct the course through instruction, courseware development and subject matter expertise.

Intelligence trainees at Hurlburt Field agree that the specialized training they receive through AFSOC only compounds the knowledge and experience they already possess, adding a level of expertise that will directly benefit our current war fighting effort.

"The AFSOC IFTU course has covered many topics I previously had little knowledge of, which support my mission as a HH-60 Pave Hawk Combat Search and Rescue intelligence officer," said Capt. Denny Landes, an AFSOC IFTU trainee. "I'm very happy to have had the opportunity to attend and get a broad picture of the different AFSOC missions, aircraft and other pertinent topics that tie together all of the 'low and slow' Air Force and joint missions to support."

Whether the AFSOC intelligence trainees return to their home base following training or deploy to the front lines, they all move forward with the same imperative mission: Providing actionable intelligence tailored to the needs of U.S. special operations forces and our allies during the ongoing Global War on Terror.